Amplify!, CPA Growth Trends, Marketing

Amplify | Navigating the Digital Advertising Landscape

Digital reigns supreme, making it imperative for firms to understand the intricacies of digital advertising to capture the attention of their target audiences. In a recent Amplify! season all about digital lead generation, Sean Smith, chief marketing officer at Schneider Downs, shares strategies, tactics and nuances of digital advertising that drive success in today’s digital age.

From Traditional to Digital Advertising

Reflecting on the bygone era of traditional advertising mediums such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television, Smith talks about how digital technology has revolutionized the marketing landscape.

In the past, we would place ads in newspapers, magazines or on radio, hoping to capture the attention of our target audience, says Smith. Today, with the proliferation of online news sources, social media platforms and streaming services, the media consumption habits of consumers have undergone a paradigm shift.

Smith had adapted to this evolution. In the early days of digital marketing, he quickly realized the power of online platforms to reach and engage with audiences. Over the years, he has seen the rise of data-driven marketing, the evolution of SEO and the game-changing impact of social media advertising.

“Digital advertising is dynamic,” Smith said. “It’s highly measurable and it’s highly targetable and so for that reason it’s very effective for lead generation and that’s why it has become such an important and popular option for firms in our industry.”

Understanding the Metrics of Success in Digital Advertising

Do digital ads work? The answer to that question comes down to the metrics used to gauge the effectiveness.

“Defining ‘did it work’ is important,” he explains. Rather than focusing solely on the number of views, align advertising objectives with key performance indicators (KPIs) such as click-through rates, lead generation and conversion rates.

By meticulously tracking these metrics, firms can measure the impact of their digital advertising efforts with precision and make data-driven decisions to optimize campaign performance. “I work for accountants. They like metrics, so you can measure response daily, weekly or monthly, and the other neat thing about digital advertising is you can shift on the fly.”

But choosing the right ad types and platforms is an important part of the equation. He has used display ads, targeted social ads and pay-per-click ads. Each type serves a distinct purpose, from building brand awareness to generating leads. The choice of ad type depends on the campaign’s specific objectives and the target audience’s characteristics.

Social media platforms like LinkedIn offer unparalleled opportunities for precision targeting, Smith said. By leveraging criteria such as job title, industry and geographic location, firms can reach their desired audience with pinpoint accuracy.

In contrast, pay-per-click ads provide a cost-effective means to target audiences actively searching for specific products or services on search engines like Google.

Crafting Compelling Content for Digital Ads

In an era characterized by short attention spans and information overload, crafting compelling content is paramount to the success of digital advertising campaigns. Smith emphasizes the importance of brevity and impact in digital ad messaging. “Less is more,” he advises. “A single impactful concept or idea within an ad is more resonant than trying to explain your product or service in multiple paragraphs.”

By capturing audience attention quickly and delivering relevant content, firms can maximize the effectiveness of their digital advertising efforts and drive engagement with their target audience.

Setting an Effective Digital Advertising Budget

When it comes to budgeting for digital advertising, Smith advocates for a cautious approach. “Here’s my best recommendation, which is start slow and monitor.”

By allocating a modest budget initially and leveraging A/B testing to optimize ad performance, firms can make informed decisions and maximize return on investment (ROI).

Pay-per-click ads offer the flexibility to set caps on spending and adjust budgets in real time, Smith explains. This allows firms to experiment with different ad strategies and allocate resources effectively based on performance metrics.

Innovative Approaches to Digital Advertising

Schneider Downs recently entered into an innovative partnership with the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team. This creative approach to digital advertising has allowed the firm to create videos using humorous content featuring accountants telling bad jokes. A viral video also showed CPAs chasing the Blue Jackets’ mascot, Stinger, down the streets of Columbus.

“Video is an incredibly engaging way to do things, and we work in an industry that’s not very fun to talk about on video. You know, cost segregation studies are not fascinating video, so we’re trying to do some things that are a little more fun and engaging and hopefully develop more LinkedIn followers.”

Prepare for the Future

Digital advertising is ever-evolving. Staying up to date requires constant vigilance and a proactive approach to learning. Be sure to invest time to learn about current industry news, emerging technologies and changes in consumer behavior. Build a flexible marketing strategy that can quickly adapt to new platforms and algorithms. And develop a solid understanding of data analytics to glean actionable insights from campaign results.

Networking with peers and participating in professional development opportunities, such as the AAM Summit, can also play a significant role in staying informed and prepared. By anticipating change and preparing accordingly, marketers can ensure they not only survive but thrive in the digital advertising space of the future.


This blog post was written based on content from the latest season of Amplify, the podcast of AAM – dedicated to firm growth. This article is based on Season 6, Episode 6, featuring a conversation with Sean Smith, chief marketing officer at Schneider Downs. Learn more about the podcast and listen first-hand at

About Katie Tolin

Katie Tolin is the president and chief growth guide at CPA Growth Guides. She’s a former in-house marketer having spent time at regional, super-regional and national accounting firms. Today she helps CPA firms drive top-line revenue and profitability through data-driven marketing strategies. She’s a past president of AAM, a former marketer of the year and was inducted into the Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame.

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